South Range to play first league game in three years

Sports

Raiders have momentum going into first NE8 game this Friday

Greenford, OHIO (WKBN) – For the first time since October 28th, 2016 the South Range Raiders will be competing in a league game on the football field this Friday when they play Poland.  Following the 2016 ITCL season, the league disbanded forming two new local leagues without South Range and Crestview being included.  South Range temporarily found a home in the Eastern Buckeye Conference, replacing Louisville who ironically was also voted out of their conference.

However, shortly after joining, seven members of the All-American Conference decided to split from their league and form a new local conference and invited South Range to join.  With the newly formed Northeast 8 being a league with a more local flair, South Range quickly left the Eastern Buckeye and joined the NE8.

“We talked about that last week at the end of the game,” Raiders head coach Dan Yeagley said of playing their first league game in three years this Friday.  “Now starts league play.  You know we always stressed league play in the past, but we haven’t had to do it (for three years).”

The only Raider players on the team that has played for a league title are the seniors on the squad, “I said, ‘Some of you guys don’t remember ever talking about this’.  Only the seniors basically.  So we talked about league play and how important this week is and how important practice is.  And how important it is to get even more focused for league play.”

The situation of having a league to compete in is not only exciting for the Raiders players but also the students, coaches, and the community.  And the fact that they will be playing local schools that they know only heightens the excitement.

“There is more excitement,” Yeagley stated.  “Just to play for a league title, whether we’re there or if we’re not there, it doesn’t matter.  You have that chance.  Everybody has a chance to win a league title.  We’re fighting for something extra.  When we were an independent we were fighting for one week at a time, and hoping to do well enough to get into the playoffs.  Now you’re fighting for a league title so now we break our season into three parts.  Non-league, league play, and if everything goes well in those two parts we might get a third chance (playoffs).  That’s important that you have that chance to fight for that league trophy which is something we haven’t had the past few years.”

Certainly the South Range athletic program knows that the NE8 will be a tough test for their football team as they will have the smallest enrollment in the league.  A switch from their days in the old ICL and ITCL where they generally enjoyed being one of the largest enrollment schools in the conference.

”When you talk to the alumni, they always said that they wanted a chance to play those guys.  When we have had some outstanding teams come through here, and you say how would we stack up against the Poland’s, Hubbard, Girard, Struthers, Niles, all those teams?  And we never got a chance.  Now, the alumni are excited, these kids on the team this year are excited to play them just to see how they do stack up.”

The Raiders come into NE8 play with some momentum following a sound beating of tradition-rich Canton Central Catholic last week 33-0.  That victory improved the Raiders to 2-1 on the season following a disappointing 23-20 loss to Springfield in overtime to open the season, and a sound beating of Crestview 42-0 in week two.

“The kids played phenomenally, they really did,” Yeagley said of the big win over Central Catholic last week.  “We got pressure on their quarterback, which is crucial, and we were able to score and move the ball on offense.  My coaches did a great job planning for that game, and defensively we did a great job.”

“We knew that was a big game for us,” Yeagley added.  “We had to get to 2-1, that’s huge because they are a great program.  They played with Perry two weeks before and they beat Norwayne.  I was very proud of the kids.”

“We never loss our confidence.  We got beat by a good Springfield team, we knew they were good and we needed to play well against them, and we didn’t.  We made some mistakes and you just can’t do that.  We came back and regrouped against Crestview, who is down a little bit (this year), and then we needed that last one against Central.  Now, this week is going to important as we start league play, and my goodness we start league play against Poland and what a power they are.  They are big and it’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be a tough game,” Yeagly concluded.

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